The first time I was told that my cholesterol was “borderline high” I was 30 years old. My doctor said it could be caused by birth-control pills. So, I said goodbye to the pills and hello to my daughter nine months later. After the pregnancy and post-pregnancy issues, the cholesterol issues popped back up again. My readings were always high or borderline high, and my HDL/LDL ratio was not good. (Curiously, I am the only one in my family with these issues. Everyone else has very normal numbers, even those who have weight to lose while my weight has pretty much always been in the normal range).
I gave up meat for a while, but the numbers didn’t change all that much, and when I was pregnant with my son 5½ years after my daughter, I CRAVED bacon and hot dogs. Now approaching 40, my doctor started mentioning cholesterol-lowering drugs when he gave me the now-expected numbers. I gave up meat (again) and exercised more, all to no avail. Finally, after hearing the same numbers and the same threat of drugs after a yearly check-up, I decided to go vegan, cold-turkey (no pun intended). If my cholesterol went down I would figure out a way to live like that and if it didn’t — well, I’d take the darn pill and keep eating bacon. My cholesterol went down 25 points in 9 weeks and my HDL/LDL was at a normal, acceptable ratio for the first time I could recall.
I would never want to re-live the first week of going from a semi-meat and lot-of-cheese-and-yogurt eating person to a vegan again. I was hungry ALL THE TIME. I shook like I was going through withdrawal (I probably was). After a few weeks, I settled into a way of eating that left out meat and dairy. On the advice of a friend I read The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, which helped with my resolve. After a couple months I even started losing some weight.
It’s been about 5 years now (or so – I’ve lost track) and I’ve come to realize that I’m not taking anywhere near the amount of allergy medicine that I used to. After reading Born To Run, by Christopher McDougall, I’ve discovered the joy of a salad for breakfast. It’s hard to tell if I have more energy; my work begins at 4 a.m. and I don’t think there’s a diet on earth that will make you feel great after getting up at 3:20 a.m. I can only imagine how much worse I would feel if I hadn’t gotten the diet and cholesterol under control.
I’m very suspicious of processed food and try to stay away from it as much as possible. Working full-time with a husband and two kids doesn’t always make that easy, or even possible. I do the best I can. When I cook, I try to find recipes that start out vegan that my family can add meat and cheese to, if they wish. It’s easier than cooking different meals for everyone. Though, after years of my being in control of the kitchen, my family is eating less meat and cheese and more fresh produce than they used to. We recently found out that my son is allergic to nuts and legumes, and that can make cooking for everyone complicated. You’d be surprised by how many foods fall under the “legume” label – I know I was.